Is the Subway Why New York City Is So Hard Hit By Coronavirus?
Print Friendly and PDF

So, the monthly excess death toll in NYC in the month up through April 4, 2020 is about twice as bad as September 2001.

From the New York Times a couple of days ago:

41 Transit Workers Dead: Crisis Takes Staggering Toll on Subways

The M.T.A. has been criticized for its response to the outbreak. Now a staffing shortage has made it difficult to keep even a diminished system running.

By Christina Goldbaum, April 8, 2020

At least 41 transit workers have died, and more than 6,000 more have fallen sick or self-quarantined. Crew shortages have caused over 800 subway delays and forced 40 percent of train trips to be canceled in a single day. On one line the average wait time, usually a few minutes, ballooned to as high as 40 minutes.

Ideally, the NYC subway system could respond to an epidemic by running more trains to reduce crowding. But illness among its workers means fewer, more jammed trains, which increase the likely infectiousness risk of each.

I hadn’t realized how the NYC subway is an order of magnitude busier than the biggest “heavy rail” (i.e., subways or elevateds with their own right of ways) systems of the next tier, D.C. and Chicago.

City/Area served Annual ridership Avg. weekday ridership System Rider. per mile
(2019)[1] (Q4 2019)[1] length
New York City 2,274,960,100 9,117,400 245 miles (394 km)[2] 37,214
Washington, D.C. 237,701,100 816,700 117 miles (188 km)[4] 6,980
Chicago 218,467,000 695,300 102.8 miles (165.4 km)[5] 6,764
Boston 152,339,700 475,300 38 miles (61 km)[6] 12,508
San Francisco Bay Area 123,510,000 421,100 112 miles (180 km)[7] 3,760
Manhattan; Hudson County, and Newark 90,276,600 306,700 13.8 miles (22.2 km)[10][11] 22,225
Philadelphia 90,240,800 329,200 36.7 miles (59.1 km)[14][15] 8,970
Atlanta 63,998,500 175,338[note 5] 47.6 miles (76.6 km) 3,684
Los Angeles 41,775,100 130,900 17.4 miles (28.0 km)[20] 7,523
Miami 18,073,100 62,600 24.4 miles (39.3 km)[21] 2,566
Philadelphia, southern New Jersey 11,107,500 38,400 14.2 miles (22.9 km)[23] 2,704
Staten Island (New York City) 7,741,000 28,500 14 miles (23 km)[2] 2,036
Baltimore 7,325,500 36,600 15.5 miles (24.9 km)[25] 2,361
Cleveland 5,958,000 15,900 19 miles (31 km)[27] 837
San Juan 5,233,900 20,300 10.7 miles (17.2 km)[29] 1,897

Other cities rely more on buses, but NYC has a huge number of buses too.

Basically, NYC has the fewest people with their own private cars.

My guess is that dangers of infection correlate with number of people standing in the mass transit vehicle and perhaps with straphanging. My vague recollection is subways tend to have more floor space for standing than for sitting, while buses have more floor space devoted to sitting than standing, while commuter trains try to be all sitting.

This unfortunate event will cause some trouble for mass transit enthusiasts.

[Comment at]

Print Friendly and PDF